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Specialty Box Office: ‘Mr. Turner’ Has Solid Debut As Oscar Hopefuls Crowd The Art Houses

Specialty Box Office: 'Mr. Turner' Has Solid Debut As Oscar Hopefuls Crowd The Art Houses

With Christmas around the corner and lots of awards announcements underway, most of 2014’s Oscar hopefuls battled out a very crowded frame to mostly solid results.

Two newcomers notably entered the field, with Sony Pictures Classics sending Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner” to 5 theaters, and GKIDS giving “Song of the Sea” an exclusive one screen debut. The former grossed a solid $109,000 for a $21,800 average. That’s the best average a Mike Leigh film has managed Stateside since his 1989 debut “High Hopes,” which grossed $27,964 from a single screen. None of his films since have had a $20,000+ average — until now.

“Song of the Sea,” meanwhile, grossed a strong $18,000 from its sole theater, putting in line with the $18,305 its fellow GKIDS offering “The Tale of The Princess Kaguya” averaged back in October. That film went on to gross $528,307 — which isn’t bad for an arty animated film.

Neither film is seen as a major Oscar hopeful, though “Turner” is definitely a dark horse for a couple major nods and “Song” is a contender for Best Animated Feature. Which makes both grosses very respectable, especially given the competition.

Speaking of, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice” had the best per-theater-average of any film in release in its second weekend.  The film — which stars everyone from Joaquin Phoenix to Josh Brolin to Reese Witherspoon to Owen Wilson to Martin Short — grossed $147,000 from 5 theaters (steady with last weekend) for a potent $29,400 per-theater-average. That gave “Vice” a respectable $600,000 gross from 10 days in just a handful of screens.

Reese Witherspoon actually had two films in the top five specialty averages of the weekend, with her starring role in Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Wild” jumping from 116 to 1,061 theaters in its third frame to gross $4,150,000. That made for an impressive $3,911 average and placed it #6 at the overall box office against films mostly playing on three times the screens.
The film — which stars Witherspoon in a performance that will
surely nab her a Best Actress nomination (she already has a SAG and Globe nod) — has now totaled $7,211,000.

“The film is gaining traction in this very busy marketplace as Reese continues to gain recognition for her outstanding performance,” Frank Rodriguez, SVP Fox Searchlight said. “With the great reviews and our A- cinemascore, the film is reaching a broad audience driven by females but including a large male contingent of moviegoers. Our success has also been fueled by the fact that mainstream audiences are seeking out a real story about a real person who is very relatable to all moviegoers.”
 
The film will expand to over 1,200 theatres by Christmas.

Perhaps the most impressive numbers of the weekend came with The Weinstein Company’s stellar fourth frame from “The Imitation Game.” The Morten Tyldum-directed Alan Turing biopic expanded slightly from 25 to 34 theaters, and the Weinsteins slow-and-steady plan continued to pay off.   The film was up 5%, grossing $895,000 for a very strong $26,324 per-theater-average. That’s the best fourth weekend per-theater average of the year.

“Game” has now grossed $3,192,000 from just a handful of screens. The Weinsteins will continue expanding in the coming weeks, likely riding a boatload of nominations from almost every awards group (the film has already done quite well with the SAGs and Globes).

Three films featuring performances Cumberbatch is up against at both the Globes and the SAGs all had strong weekends in their own right.  “Foxcatcher” jumped from 79 to 307 theaters in its sixth frame. Starring Channing Tatum, Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo, the
Bennett Miller-directed, Sony Pictures Classics-released film grossed
$954,000 this weekend, averaging $3,107. The film’s total now stands at $4,438,000

Focus Features’ release of James Marsh’s “Theory of Everything” dropped from 1,200 to 1,011 theaters in its seventh weekend.  It took in $1,590,000 as a result, averaging $1,573 per theater and taking it stotal to $19,823,000. It will soon join “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “St. Vincent,” “Boyhood” and “Birdman” as the 5th 2014 specialty release to gross over $20,000,000.

“Theory”
stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones as renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife
Jane, and is based on Jane’s memoirs of her marriage to Stephen.

Meanwhile,
Fox Searchlight took Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Oscar hopeful
“Birdman” from 606 down to 452 theaters on Friday.  Riding a wave by receiving the most nominations of any film at the Golden Globes, managed to drop just 30% in grosses despite losing a sizable chunk of its theaters –taking in $910,000 for a $2,013
average. The film has now totaled $22,249,000.

“Birdman”
stars Michael Keaton as a washed-up Hollywood actor who once played a
superhero. Aiming to reinvent his career, he tries adapting Raymond
Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” as a
play. It is now notably Iñárritu’s second highest grossing film behind only “Babel.”

Head to the next page for a chart of the weekend’s best per-theater-averages.


The Weekend’s Specialty Top 10 (ranked in order of
per-theater-average, and only including films that both submitted
estimates and initially opened in under 500 theaters):

1. Inherent Vice (Warner Bros)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $147,000
Theaters: 5 (even)
Per-Theater-Average: $29,400
Total Gross: $600,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Vice”

2. The Imitation Game (The Weinstein Company)
Week: 4
Weekend Gross: $895,000
Theaters: 34 (up from 25)
Per-Theater-Average: $26,324
Total Gross: $3,192,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Game”

3. Mr. Turner (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $109,000
Theaters: 5
Per-Theater-Average: $21,800
Total Gross: $109,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Mr. Turner”

4. Song of the Sea (GKids)
Week: Debut
Weekend Gross: $18,000
Theaters: 1
Per-Theater-Average: $18,000
Total Gross: $18,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Song”

5. Wild (Fox Searchlight)
Week: 3
Weekend Gross: $4,150,000
Theaters: 1,061 (up from 116)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,911
Total Gross: $7,211,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Wild”

6. Foxcatcher (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 6
Weekend Gross: $954,000
Theaters: 307 (up from 79)
Per-Theater-Average: $3,107
Total Gross: $4,438,000
Criticwire Average: B+
Read more about “Foxcatcher”

7. Birdman (Fox Searchlight)
Week: 10
Weekend Gross: $910,000
Theaters: 452 (down from 606)
Per-Theater-Average: $2,013
Total Gross: $22,249,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Birdman”

8. Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles (Cohen)
Week: 2
Weekend Gross: $1,800
Theaters: 1 (down from 2)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,800
Total Gross: $15,600
Criticwire Average: N/A

9. Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics)
Week: 11
Weekend Gross: $197,000
Theaters: 111 (down from 153)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,775
Total Gross: $5,087,000
Criticwire Average: A-
Read more about “Whiplash”

10. The Theory of Everything (Focus)
Week: 7
Weekend Gross: $1,590,000
Theaters: 1,011 (down from 1,220)
Per-Theater-Average: $1,573
Total Gross: $19,823,000
Criticwire Average: B
Read more about “Theory”


Peter Knegt is a contributing editor at Indiewire and our box office columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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